Building Common(s) By Building Walls
Vika Khokhlova @ TU Munich, Studio Sophie Wolfrum, Sofia Dona
The permanent state of crisis, within the area of Victoria, Athens, causes a constant feeling of abandonment for its citizens. Whereas the empty apartments at polykatoikias do not announce themselves publicly, visually vacant plots affect the image of the city and have a direct influence on its inhabitants. This spatial pattern caused by the crisis contemporarily has potential.
Whilst the citizens of Athens are not using the spaces of their balconies, terraces and courtyards, they still have the necessity to gathering in public spaces, no matter the reason.
Space in Athens exists between the state, the city and the residents, and the border between formal and informal is sometimes hard to establish. Changing existing urban policies for the open use of the temporally vacant plots would mean empowering Athens through public gatherings and informal initiatives. “The understanding of common(s) as a new kind of (urban) space that is outside the dichotomy of public and private” (Merve Bedir) is a hope for resistance of disadvantaged communities and general public in rising up to protect a matter of public interest in order reclaim their rightful place as owners of the city.
Currently the area of Victoria is inhabited by multinational and diverse social groups. The overall atmosphere is quite tense. The project strongly believes that reclaiming the borders would cause healthier community relations. Instead of creating an illusion, an image of an “ideal” society, the project advocates that it is better to show tolerance towards all the members of the society. With such a simple tool as a wall it is possible to establish meeting places whilst living ones own life privately. The element of the wall would allow for any kind of neighboring, whilst openings in the walls would be invitations and regulators of relations. With solidarity and mutual respect, supported by the formal borders, it the project speculates on sharing the city as a public second home. The walls would allow to re-establish the sense of common(s) within the contemporary city of Athens.
Who influences you graphically?
I think that an architect operates differently within the realm of representation based on one’s own personal experience, which is constantly influenced and fluctuating in relation to time and locus. Nowadays, because of the overwhelming amount and variety of mass-media, we are consciously referring to the latter, “quoting” it on purpose, or unconsciously repeating and multiplying data, but always in a new and reworked way. As each project asks for a specific language of representation, image-making is about the interpretation of an idea. In this project, it was important to work with the city as a set of spatial and social patterns, banded together or neighboring without intersections.
What defined the square vs rectangular format?
The square shape is self-sufficient and dominating, it attracts the most visual attention. It defines the axonometric projections as the main images of the presentation – they provide the viewer not only with the space captured, but also with the layer of narrative. The three dimensional projections have the purpose of really exploring and explaining the project whilst the 2D, provide the viewer with the ‘extra’.
What is your take on colour? What is the effect and purpose of the monochromatic palette?
The project was explored through hand-sketches before being converted and explored within the realm of the digital to better capture the generic city structure, with the local proposal points. By using a monochromatic palette, attention is drawn to the surfaces where each exemplifies a drastic shift of the geometry. In the axonometric, 2-dimentional surfaces already represent the whole multi-functionality of the wall as a border. A line here is a supportive element, contributing to the drawing by framing the contextual objects, the details. The lines are not the dividers.
What is your take on the axonometric projection?
The Axonometric simplifies the image and here presents information in a more diagrammatic way. Even though they are already three-dimensional they still do not capture the reality as it is, as that is not the major concern of the project. While giving the general context, they allow to distinguish the visible/invisible parts, presenting the overall concept, a coherent thought with regards to the transformation of the spaces.
What defined the use of cutouts in the last image? What is your take on the contemporary trend of borrowed imagery from paintings as those of Rousseau amongst others?
The use of the collage for the cover-image is again an act of simplification: using the existing situation as a background, accompanying it with a set of half-imaginaries, half-familiar details.
This image has three main layers: the first one is the background which exists, the second one is the divider I am adding (the wall) and the third one is the viewer at the foreground. The wall, as an imaginary part of my visualization, has an opening, which provides a glimpse towards the extra-level of information visible through the opening in the wall.
Such paintings as those of Rousseau are already used by many, especially in contemporary architectural visualization. They have became one of the common ways of providing the scene with the staffage and anturage. Referring to these visuals in the collage tends to mediate with the architectural public in a more coherent way. Also importantly, this reference allows to “time-stamp” an image (and a project itself) as the one that was created in this particular time.